Tony Halpin | From:The Times
ANNA Chapman has embarked on a political career as the new pin-up girl of Vladimir Putin’s youth movement.
It hailed Ms Chapman, 28, as a patriotic role model for young Russians after her brief career as an undercover agent in the US ended in arrest by the FBI, along with nine other “sleeper” spies.
Her arrival on the political stage comes a year before elections to Russia’s parliament, the Duma, are due to take place. Reportedly on Mr Putin’s orders, United Russia added several attractive women to its candidate list at the last election, including the former Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is alleged to be his mistress.
Many Young Guards leaders have gone on to make political careers in the Duma with United Russia. State television reported Ms Chapman’s entry into its ranks on national news bulletins and broadcast part of her speech to activists at its congress in Moscow.
“I want us to learn to be positive. How much energy did we spend in order to become a great power?” she said, dressed in a figure-hugging red-and-black outfit. “We must transform the future, we must begin with ourselves. There would be less negativity in society if each of us woke up with a smile.”
Ms Chapman has transformed herself since the summer spy scandal, when her Bond-girl looks earned her the name “Agent 36-24-36” in Russian tabloids. She and her handlers at Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service have astutely exploited her image as a modern Mata Hari to make spying for the Kremlin seem like a cool career option for a new generation of post-Soviet youth.
She has posed in lingerie for a men’s magazine, sung patriotic songs with Mr Putin, below, and appeared at the launch of a rocket carrying a joint Russian-US crew to the International Space Station since her return to Moscow in a spy swap in July.
The former Russian spy joined the Young Guards, the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party, and was immediately made a member of its governing public council. The group is dubbed the “Putin Youth” by critics because of its fanatical devotion to the Prime Minister.
She was also hired as an “adviser on investment and innovation” by the little-known FondServiceBank in Moscow, whose initials match those of Russia’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Security Service. Timur Prokopenko, who was elected one of the Young Guards’ three new leaders at the congress, said that Ms Chapman was a “hero of our generation”. He said: “She can play an active part in developing our youth because she represents an ideal for them to emulate.”
She was, he added, already writing a book on the subject of innovation. He said that the invitation to Ms Chapman to join Young Guards had come at an innovation forum addressed by President Medvedev in Moscow last week.
Ms Chapman appeared less keen to talk about her new life as a Young Guard. She told her bodyguard to take her away from the congress after reporters asked her what role she would play.
The Young Guards group has its roots in the Soviet Komsomol youth movement. It was revived as a vehicle for mobilising “patriotic” youth on the streets to support Mr Putin and fight any threat of a pro-democracy revolution in Russia.
It came under suspicion after the Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin was brutally attacked last month by two men with an iron bar. The group had posted photographs of him and other journalists critical of the Kremlin on its website with the words “Will Be Punished”.
Mr Putin, who was a Soviet KGB agent in the former East Germany, has lavished praise on the nine spies since they returned to Russia. President Medvedev awarded them top state honours for service to Russia in October, despite FBI claims that the spies failed to obtain any secrets. Veteran KGB agents, by contrast, have strongly criticised the agents for a lack of professionalism.
Source : www.theaustralian.com.au